MEDFORD, Ore. — If you have received an unsolicited call from the Jackson County Sheriff's Office (JCSO) lately, there's a good chance that the caller is trying to run a scam. According to the agency itself, they have received multiple reports of this kind of scam — including one woman who paid the scammer $2,500.
"Scammers posing as officials from the Jackson County Sheriff’s Office (JCSO) are using familiar tactics with a new twist in an attempt to scam people out of money," the agency said in a statement on Wednesday.
Reports of the scam started coming in on Tuesday. JCSO said that someone has been calling local residents and claiming that they have a "warrant for failing to appear in court," followed by a solicitation for payment. Leaving a callback number with the victim, the scammer then directs the victim to present themselves at the Sheriff's Office once payment is made.
One woman appeared at the Sheriff's Office on Wednesday morning, reporting that she had spent $2,500 on prepaid debit cards and given the card numbers to someone over the phone. It wasn't until she arrived at the staton that she discovered she had been scammed.
While other people have reported the scam, JCSO said that no one else has confirmed losing money.
“We’ve seen scams like this before,” said Sergeant Julie Denney. “But this one is different because the scammers are also using an official-sounding recording to trick people into believing that JCSO is taking payments over the phone.”
Potential victims who dial the callback number left by the scammers are treated to an official-sounding computerized greeting — complete with a number of options for different extentions that sound real [listen below]. The recording says that JCSO no longer accepts payments for fines through cash, checks or credit/debit cards — only via a "secure electronic voucher system."
The recording then prompts the caller to press a number in order to be connected with an "employee" of the agency.
“It’s during that one-on-one contact with the scammer that people are manipulated into believing they have a warrant and need to pay their fines to avoid being arrested,” said Sergeant Denney.
Sergeant Denney says prevention is the most important way for citizens to battle scams. Due to the technology used in the scam — and the fact that scammers can be located anywhere in the world — it is virtually impossible to track the scammers or to get money back.
JCSO officials say that it’s important for people to know that their employees will never call people to let them know they have warrants or to request any form of payment. Legitimate businesses and government agencies will not request payment by prepaid debit cards.
The agency also says not to focus on specific scam tactics. Scammers often change their methods over time, but here are a few general tips that may be helpful to know:
• Scammers can easily obtain new phone numbers and will change them often.
• Scammers may use “spoof” programs to make the Caller ID show an agency’s actual phone number.
• Scammers may use the names of actual JCSO employees to make the call seem legitimate.
• Scammers may obtain personal information about a victim online including their name, address, phone number, and the names of others in the home.
• Scammers may initially contact victims by mail, email, or through social media.